San Antonio may not be on par with New England and Colorado in terms of fall color, but the south-central Texas city does know how to put on a Halloween party. When it comes to celebrating the spookiest holiday of the year, San Antonio offers a bounty of haunted houses, thrilling events, and even a PG-rated parade of floating coffins for the kids. In 2020, many Halloween events have been altered or canceled amid the pandemic. Check the websites of organizers for updated information.
Dare to Enter the 13th Floor Haunted House
San Antonio's oldest and longest-running Halloween attraction is a theatrical, downright terrifying haunted house. Capitalizing on historic superstitions surrounding the number 13, this spooky production utilizes Hollywood-style special effects and surprising twists and turns to scare the wits out of its visitors. It's located just a few blocks from the Alamo and the San Antonio Riverwalk in a building that's over 100 years old. Children under the age of 12 are not advised to enter. The 2020 season kicks off on September 18 and closes November 7, running nearly every evening in October. This year, due to limited capacity, tickets should be purchased far in advance.
Parade Around the Haunted River
The San Antonio Riverwalk typically celebrates Halloween with a full day of live music, dancing, costume contests, and a haunted river parade of floating "corpses" in the San Antonio River. Haunted River is a free festival that features two separate parties: one for adults at the Arneson River Theatre in La Villita and one for the whole family at the Shops at Rivercenter, also known as Haunted River, Jr. The adult party usually includes Halloween-inspired performances and an adult costume contest, while the kid-friendly party features a live DJ, all-ages costume contests, and trick-or-treating along the Riverwalk. In 2020, the event has been reduced to the family-friendly part only—no parade—from 6 to 9 p.m. on October 23.
Make a Splash at Howl-O-Scream SeaWorld
Starting in late September, SeaWorld San Antonio is transformed into a land of nightmares—advisable only for kids over the age of 12—with five designated scare zones, four haunted houses, and several Halloween-themed bars. Howl-O-Scream is held on weekends leading up to the holiday and features all sorts of spooky performances, dance parties, and daring challenges. During the day, guests can still enjoy SeaWorld's permanent attractions. In 2020, SeaWorld San Antonio has canceled Howl-O-Scream.
Find More Thrills at Fiesta Texas Fright Fest
With its scream-inducing rides, Six Flags Fiesta Texas is a thrilling adventure any time of year, but Halloween in the park is even more adrenaline-pumping. Swarms of zombies and ghouls descend on the park from morning to night for all-day frights while special attractions crop up around the park, including haunted mazes, pulse-pounding rides, and on-theme live entertainment. Fright Fest usually begins mid-September and lasts through Halloween, but in 2020, it's been replaced by HallowFest, a more physically distanced and precautious version of the original. Six Flags will eschew indoor mazes, haunted houses, and indoor shows for the season, but plenty of frights can still be found on weekends from September 18 to November 1. Reservations are required.
Go Wild at Zoo Boo! at the San Antonio Zoo
Sourcing valuable non-scary entertainment for wee kids in the area, Zoo Boo! at the San Antonio Zoo is a refreshing change from zombies and evil clowns in your face. Instead, guests go trick-or-treating, indulge in pumpkin painting, attend dance parties, and maybe embark on a hay maze. There are occasional costume contests throughout the event to reward creativity. Admission to the San Antonio Zoo automatically grants access to these family-friendly, Halloween-themed games and activities, but you'll have to pay a little extra to take a ride on the beloved Zoo Boo! Express train. In 2020, the event will offer a physically distanced drive-through option. It takes place daily—with special programming on weekends—from September 18 through October 30.
Get Lost in Ripley's Haunted Adventure
Ripley's Haunted Adventure is an interactive haunted house where visitors can take a ride in a coffin cage and walk through a haunted maze filled with special effects and live monsters—any time of year. As a haunted house, it provides traditional thrills in the form of costumed actors lurking around corners and emerging from the darkness. Through October, Ripley's Haunted Adventure holds Fright Nights every Friday and Saturday evening. This is a more private haunted house experience. In 2020, masks are required.
Meet Spirits on a Sister Grimm Ghost Tour
For potential encounters with real spirits as opposed to artificial ghosts, there's the Sister Grimm Ghost Tour, named one of the top ghost tours in the country by USA Today. The tour features some of San Antonio's most historic and supposedly haunted locations, from the first Spanish settlements in 1691 to the famous last stand of the Alamo. You'll learn about the haunted history of one of Texas' first settlements on any one of Sister Grimm's four special tours. They're are available on select dates throughout the year, but occur frequently throughout the month of October.